This past weekend I took a road-trip to Columbus and did some shopping at Whole Foods Market. And, if you like your shopping with a bit of that über-stylish-eco-friendly-fair-trade feel, then this is the Mecca you’ve been looking for. Of course, just remember, anything organic is also organically expensive. But, there was a bonus: There were around 100 free snacks, of which about half where cheese. Cheese is good.
While we were checking out and scanning our organic grapes and whole food delicacies, I spotted Plenty—an environmental mag in its sophomore year with the catchy tagline, "It’s easy being green." Inside the magazine there was an article about conservative evangelicals working to improve the environment—unlikely environmentalists, they were called. The article dealt with the progression of green conservatives like Rich Cizik, the Vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, and Jim Ball, leader of the Evangelical Environmental Network, and their crusades to spread the doctrine of "Creation Care" ( i.e., environmentalism redefined with a conservative twist) among evangelical conservatives.
Let me be honest: I never used to think much about the environment or global poverty issues, really. Most of my activist leanings were stunted when I was young and heard a few evangelical leaders rave against environmentalism because the earth was going to be destroyed anyway and the ills of the liberal-social-gospel. So why worry about it? That let me off the hook. It was nice being off the hook … for a while.
But I am starting to understand the importance of being a competent steward of the environment as God’s creation and part of His kingdom work. Not so much in an I’ve got to be one with mother earth sort of way, but more from my realization that the way we live is affecting people all over the world and the ability to create an environment with clean air and pure water is crucial. I’m also seeing the connection of environmental issues with poverty and injustice a la mass consumerism and our culture’s penchant to pillage resources and neglect people.
There’s a lot to be said about loving justice in the Bible, for sure. There’s also much to be said about greed and its devastating effects. Intervening for the oppressed should be a natural outpouring from the church, but somehow, the oppressed can easily become a nuisance. Distancing ourselves from environmental/social issues and the people affected by them is an easy alternative to caring. It’s widely accepted not to care, or at least, not that much.
Although with natural disasters like Katrina, devastating Tsunamis, ravaging floods and global poverty issues, it’s not a stretch to turn our attention back to the environment—to better understand the issues of global warming, clean water and preservation of rain forests. These issues affect people’s lives in powerful ways. It’s also likely that more attention will be given to these concerns from within conservative evangelical groups in the future (insert: next election); these issues are gaining momentum and rightly so. These are justice issues—which also, invariably, make them kingdom issues, too. Because, if the world was destroyed tomorrow—burned up—the way we handled the resources God has given us, for the good of others, will still be relevant.
Of course, one of the hindrances for dealing with environmental and poverty issues within evangelical circles is the correlation of leftist agendas associated with the movement. But it seems there’s a new movement of conservative Christians that are against same-sex marriage and abortion, but for being wise stewards of the environment and for seeking justice for the oppressed. I guess you could say there’s a movement of evangelical Christians that are giving a new shade of green to the environmental issues. With books like Rob Dreher’s Crunchy Cons, and Jim Ball’s What Would Jesus Drive campaign, it seems that the movement of evangelical enviro’s is gaining ground. Greener ground, that is.
Of course, Christ has called us to do more than merely discuss the environment, poverty and justice; He has called us to be the very vehicles for His arm of justice in the world. Shane Claiborne, in his book The Irresistible Revolution, writes, "People don’t get crucified for charity. People get crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order, that calls forth a new world. People are not crucified for helping poor people. People are crucified for joining them." In other words, shopping at Whole Foods Market won’t get you crucified, but living with-and-for the people that could never afford to shop there just might.
There’s a danger in joining, there’s also great power in it. Which makes me think that the tagline for Plenty may not be that accurate—if we truly want to go green, it probably won’t be that easy. At least not for Christians who desire to see God’s justice worked out more than they want to become hip green conservatives.